Highway Work Zone & Construction Safety

Work Zone Safety: Part 1 of 5

IDOT Videoss for Illinois Drivers


Roadway work zones are hazardous both for motorists who drive through the complex array of signs, barrels, and lane changes and for workers who build, repair, and maintain our Nation’s streets, bridges, and highways.  The Federal Highway Administration reports fatal crashes in construction and maintenance work zones dropped from 716 in 2008 to 667 in 2009.  Texas, Florida, and California ranked as the three States with the most motor vehicle crash fatalities in work zones.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 101 worker fatalities in work zones in 2008, 116 in 2009, and 103 (preliminary data) in 2010.  Here too, Texas and Florida ranked one and two, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois and Georgia.  Transportation incidents accounted for 72 percent of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries in 2010 (preliminary data).

Sources: Fatalities in Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes by State and Construction/Maintenance Zone (2008) External Web Site Icon
Fatalities in Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes by State and Work Zone (2009) External Web Site Icon
Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites by selected characteristics, 2003-2010 Adobe PDF file [PDF – 27 KB]External Web Site Icon

During the 2003 to 2007 period, 639 workers were killed while working at a road construction site.  During this same period there were 8,103 deaths in the construction industry.  The 639 worker deaths in road construction represent 7.9% of all deaths in construction.  Nearly half of these fatalities were attributable to a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment—more frequently by construction equipment than by tractor-trailers, vans, and cars.  In 60 percent of the cases where a worker was struck by backing vehicles or mobile equipment, the worker was fatally struck by a backing dump truck.

Source: Fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites, 2003-07 Adobe PDF file [PDF – 254 KB]External Web Site Icon

General Information – Fatality Reports and Prevention Strategies

In-house Fatality Investigations Reports on Worker Deaths in Highway Work Zone
State-based Fatality Investigations Reports on Worker Deaths in Highway Work Zone
These links provide lists of reports of fatality investigations of incidents where workers in highway work zones were killed. These investigations were conducted under the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. Although most of the examples involve highway construction, a few cases that occurred in maintenance and utility work zones are also included.

NIOSH Protecting Workers in Construction – Preventing Injuries Related to Motor Vehicles and Equipment Adobe PDF file [PDF – 2.25 MB]
(July 2008)
NIOSH hosted a 3-day workshop that brought together 60 key stakeholders from government agencies, labor unions, and private employers to discuss measures to reduce worker injuries from vehicles and equipment. Researchers analyzed injury data, reviewed scientific literature, and developed “white papers” to focus discussion at the workshop. NIOSH then compiled research results and workshop participant input into a highway work zone safety guide.


Roadway Safety

Equipment Blind Areas/Proximity Warning Systems


Other Related Publications – NIOSH

Other Related Publications – FHWA

Research in Progress at NIOSH

Expanded Information Tools for Building Safer Work Zones
This project will convert NIOSH work zone safety research into safety information products for use by employers, labor unions, agencies, and safety personnel developing training materials for preventing workers from being struck by operating roadway construction equipment operating in work zones. Research from a project evaluating roadway construction work zone interventions and from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program will form the basis of information products developed under this project.

Project contact: David Fosbroke
Division of Safety Research
(304) 285-6010, DFosbroke@cdc.gov
Project period: 2007-2013

Other Research Funded by NIOSH

Effectiveness of Active Speed Controls in Highway Work zones Adobe PDF file [PDF – 2,437 KB]
NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs Annual Program Report – Fiscal Year 2004
The objective of this project was to evaluate the effectiveness of three interventions on the reduction of travel speeds in highway work zones: (i) Rumble Strips, (ii) Variable Message Signs (VMSs), and (iii) Police Presence with Rumble Strips. (see research information on page 16)

Project Contact: Satish Mohan
Research Foundation of the State University of New York

Safety of Nighttime Construction Activities
This research will evaluate safety issues in nighttime construction as a necessary prerequisite to the development of strategies to improve safety, quality and productivity of nighttime construction operations on highways and in other sectors of construction.

Project Contact: Dulcy M. Abraham
Purdue University West LaFayette, West LaFayette, IN 47907-2108
Project Period: 2005-2010

Other Research Funded by the Transportation Research Board

Identifying and Reducing Worker, Inspector, and Manager Fatigue in Rapid Renewal EnvironmentsExternal Web Site Icon.
The impact of fatigue on the quality of work and the safety of workers, inspectors, and managers, especially on rapid renewal highway projects, is considered serious and in need of further investigation and solutions.  This project will investigate fatigue as it relates to rapid renewal projects, providing an overview of sleep, fatigue, and alertness and how they impact performance, teamwork, quality, and the potential for accidents and injury. The project will then discuss ways to mitigate fatigue by identifying safe limits for workers and supervisors.

Project Contact: Mark S. Bush
Transportation Research Board
Project Period: 2009-2012

Press Releases

Division of Safety Research (DSR), Researchers begin identifying highway work sites to evaluate new prevention measures, June 2004

NIOSH, OSHA, Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Coalition Ally to Improve Roadway Work Zone Safety, November 26, 2003

Ways to Prevent Job-related Roadway Deaths, Critical Research Areas Identified by NIOSH,
November 6, 2003

Press Release: CDC Report Suggests Ways to Prevent Injuries, Fatalities to Workers in Highway Work Zones, May 15, 2001

NIOSH Report Highlights Motor Vehicle Crash Risk for Workers, Recommends Practical Preventive Measures, July 27, 1998

Related U.S. Government Web Sites

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Injuries, Illnesses, and FatalitiesExternal Web Site Icon
Data on fatal and nonfatal injuries at work from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the annual Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness, and other Department of Labor programs:

Bureau of Transportation StatisticsExternal Web Site Icon
Comprehensive U.S. transportation statistics for all modes of transportation.

Federal Highway AdministrationExternal Web Site Icon
Information on the U.S. highway infrastructure, safety initiatives, regulations, environmental stewardship, and congestion mitigation.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety AdministrationExternal Web Site Icon
Information on regulatory and voluntary programs for reducing injuries, fatalities, and crashes associated with large trucks and buses.

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control DevicesExternal Web Site Icon
Federal regulations for operation and set-up of temporary traffic control zones, including highway work zones and emergency situations.

National Highway InstituteExternal Web Site Icon
The National Highway Institute (NHI) is a training arm of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). NHI provides leadership and resources for the development and delivery of training and education programs to improve the quality of our Nation’s highway system and its inter modal connections.

OSHA Directorate of ConstructionExternal Web Site Icon
Safety and Health Topic page covering Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades

OSHA/NIOSH Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health PartnersExternal Web Site Icon
Alliance page describes the Alliance’s goals and activities.

Other Related Web Sites

AAA Foundation for Traffic SafetyExternal Web Site Icon
Provides research results and educational materials to promote traffic safety. This site also has a useful work zone photo library.

American Road & Transportation Builders AssociationExternal Web Site Icon
ARTBA holds annual meetings and conferences, maintains standing committees and professional development sections that work on issues to promote improvements in work zone safety.

American Society of Safety EngineersExternal Web Site Icon
Offers basic resources for safety professionals on work zone safety.

Associated General ContractorsExternal Web Site Icon
AGG holds annual meetings and conferences, maintains standing committes and professional development sections that work on issues to promote improvements in work zone safety.

Construction Safety CouncilExternal Web Site Icon
The Construction Safety Council is a non-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of safety and health interests in the field of construction throughout the world.

Insurance Institute for Highway SafetyExternal Web Site Icon
Vehicle crash test results and a wide variety of educational materials on traffic safety. Offers useful state-by-state comparisons of traffic safety laws.

International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)External Web Site Icon

Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFA)External Web Site Icon

National Asphalt Pavement AssociationExternal Web Site Icon
NAPA holds annual meetings and conferences, maintains standing committes and professional development sections that work on issues to promote improvements in work zone safety.

National Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationExternal Web Site Icon
Provides information on vehicle testing and standards, occupant restraints, impaired and drowsy driving, and national crash statistics.

National Safety CouncilExternal Web Site Icon
In conjunction with ARTBA offers Roadway Work Zone Safety Awareness Awards. Offers general work zone safety information for safety professionals.

National Work Zone Safety Information ClearinghouseExternal Web Site Icon
Provides information for government, industry, and the public to promote the safe and effective operation of highway work zones.

Transportation Research BoardExternal Web Site Icon
Provides information from the arm of the National Research Council that engages government, industry, and academia in promoting research, policy studies, and information-sharing addressing all aspects and modes of transportation. Offers publications for a fee including, Illumination Guidelines for Nighttime Highway Work, Highway Maintenance Safety, Support, and Service

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI)External Web Site Icon
Provides research results from an interdisciplinary center with expertise in large-truck safety, human factors, engineering, public policy, and data collection and analysis. Work Zone related research includes pedestrian and road worker visibility, and application of intelligent transportation systems in work zones.

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